Updated: Jan 31
Carrying on from my introductory article on understanding your PCOS diagnosis, today’s post will delve deeper into the realm of nutrition management.
In other words, I’m going to provide you with a more complete understanding of the dietary strategies you need to be aware of to manage your symptoms and optimize your health.
Are you ready to roll!?
Nutrition and lifestyle changes are the main treatment for PCOS and play an important role alongside medication, psychological support, and other supports.
Medical Treatment for PCOS
It’s not unusual for your doctor to prescribe pharmaceutical agents for first line of strategy based on your specific symptoms and treatment goals.
Clomiphene to induce a period and help with infertility,
Metformin to make your cells more sensitive to insulin,
An oral contraceptive pill to reduce androgens (and their symptoms such as acne and extra hair growth) and make your periods regular,
and/or Letrozole to help with infertility (Williams, Mortada, & Porter, 2016).
It is critical for your registered dietitian to know the medications you are on so that they can be aware of any nutritional implications, interactions, or potential side effects that may arise.
So where does food fit in?
Let’s explore… I love discussing this part of it!
Nutrition and Lifestyle for PCOS
Nutrition and lifestyle interventions are among the main treatment strategies for PCOS, which means an experienced registered dietitian can offer you a ton of help.
I really don’t want you to waste your time quick fixes or fad diets you find online.
What works for PCOS is an eating pattern that is balanced nutritionally (carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals) and takes into account your culture, your lifestyle, your family and your preferences.
Let’s take a look at a “PCOS positive” plate:
The goals of this style of eating includes:
Reducing insulin resistance
Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress
And ultimately preventing further PCOS complications.
I have FOUR practical steps you can take today that will bring your style of eating to the next level.
1. Make fibre your best friend
Include a fibre source at every meal and every snack. But where do we find fibre?
Fibre is an amazing nutrient that is only available in plant food. We find fibre in 6 groups of food:
Meal Idea: 1 cup of whole grain pasta made with 1 cup vegetables and pulses. Snack Idea: an apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter.
2. Use protein strategically
Distribute protein intake throughout the day by including protein source(s) in each meal and snack you consume.
Have at least 5g of protein with every meal or snack.
Have 10-20 g of protein with breakfast + 10-20 g in a night meal within 2 hours before sleep.
Do not forget your plate model (1/4 of the plate is filled with protein).
Meal Idea: 1 cup vegetable and meat or pulses chili with ½ cup rice. Snack Idea: ½ cup full fat Greek yogurt with strawberries
3. Don’t forget the fats
Especially those fats that are in fatty fish, olive oil, avocadoes, and nuts and seeds.
Meal Idea: Baked lemon and garlic salmon and ½ cup sweet potatoes with garden salad (dressed with olive oil) . Snack Idea: ¼ cup Trail mix.
4. Hold onto the key nutrients
Women with PCOS are more likely to be deficient of many key nutrients, for example: magnesium, zinc, selenium and chromium.
Meal Idea: ½ cup Steal cut oats with 1 cup full fat milk topped with nuts (e.g. walnuts and Brazil nuts) and seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds) with cinnamon. Snack Idea: tuna on whole grain pita sprinkled with seeds.
Supplements and Natural Treatments
The so-called natural or complementary treatment options have also gained popularity in the world of PCOS treatment.
I only support/recommend treatments that are backed by evidence.
There are several supplements that have been shown in research and practice to be effective in certain aspects of PCOS symptom management.
The most important ones to highlight are:
I will discuss supplements in more details in a future blog.
Some herbal teas (such as spearmint and green tea) and acupuncture may have potential benefits for women with PCOS.
Physical Activity and Sleep
Movement and rest are the last of, but not least of, the treatment considerations for PCOS.
I believe that exercise is medicine and is helpful in regulating insulin levels, blood pressure, cholesterol. In addition, it improves strength, mood, metabolism, sleep, and reduce cravings.
Working towards 7-8 hours of nightly sleep, which many Canadians fall short of, is another important step.
How I Can Help
I am passionate about women’s health and nutrition role in our bodies. I specialized in PCOS because I know that I can make a difference in your life.
I created a comprehensive nutrition assessments, coaching program, educational resources, trackers, and PCOS-friendly meal plans and recipes to help you take charge of your PCOS and action for your health and wellbeing.
I use the methods of motivational interviewing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, intuitive eating, hands-on activities and what works for you.
Mensinger, J. L., Calogero, R. M., Stranges, S., & Tylka, T. L. (2016). A weight-neutral versus weight-loss approach for health promotion in women with high BMI: A randomized-controlled trial. Appetite, 105, 364-374.
Teede, H., Misso, M., Costello, M., Dokras, A., Laven, J., Moran, L., ... & Norman, R. (2018). International Evidence-Based Guideline for the Assessment and Management of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome 2018. Monash University: Melbourne, Australia.
Williams, T., Mortada, R., & Porter, S. (2016). Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. American family physician, 94(2).